So, let me get this straight. He’s a sponge, who lives in a pineapple in the ocean and has a squirrel as a friend.
OK, I can accept that.
As I sat next to a friend and “SpongeBob” veteran Tuesday night at the Overture Center in Madison for the musical version of the Nickelodeon cartoon, I didn’t know what to expect.
Before the show started there was a giant screen that covered the stage to give a glimpse into the life of the ocean.
There were sharks, a diver and even a fish who I swear was looking at us.
Then what happened next was a colorful explosion on the stage like a Katy Perry concert, one that was blinding at times, and awe-inspiring.
During the first intermission as people walked out in the hall, I heard the same reaction I had.
“I like the scenes, but I’m not sure I get it.”
But have no fear, there was plenty to be learned from “SpongeBob The Musical.” There’s the message of not being a loser and believing in yourself and that a sponge named Bob is not simple. He’s complex and caring.
Oh, and one other thing to remember for your next trip to the seafood buffet – don’t trust the talking crab.
The problem for the mostly-adult audience Tuesday night at the Overture Center was they lacked “SpongeBob” knowledge. But the show was entertaining with some of the best choreography that has hit that stage.
When SpongeBob has to climb in and out of tall ladders and sing, sometimes upside down, the show comes off like a piece of art.
The voices were tremendous, and the songs were written by a wide variety of famous rock stars like Aerosmith and David Bowie.
But with all the chaos on stage and one song after another, the musical missed on what makes musicals great.
I didn’t leave the theater with a song stuck in my head. And I was never really pulled into the story. That is where “SpongeBob” misses.
The story begins as SpongeBob and all of Bikini Bottom, where they live, is faced with annihilation of their undersea world. A nearby volcano has erupted and has set the overly-positive SpongeBob, played impressively by Lorenzo Pugliese, to team with others to save their world.
SpongeBob is trying to prove to the rest of the world that he is “Not a Simple Sponge.”
The story reflects the politics of modern day where government tries to get involved. But the show also misses the opportunity to have some funny one-liners. They keep with the innocent theme for their audience, although there were not that many children at the musical.
But the message is a good one. We learn that having a “BFF” is important when faced by life’s challenges. A song by John Legend called “Miss You” is one of the standout performances of the night between SpongeBob and Patrick, played by Beau Bradshaw.
Sandy Cheeks, played by Daria Pilar Redus, is a great counter for SpongeBob to keep him believing in himself. And keep him climbing ladders to get to where he’s going. And if he tries hard enough, he can save the world.
Squidward Q. Tentacles steals the show. Played by Cody Cooley, he not only has to dance with four legs, I mean, tentacles, but he has a 1970s-like dance number that got the crowd into the performance. And in a second, he changes from his glitz and glamour number back to a T-shirt.
One of the best parts of the night also took place out in the atrium before the show started. People were looking at the colorful merchandise and I heard a person say, “Don’t tell anyone I was at ‘SpongeBob’ tonight.”
The show is a guilty pleasure for some, and a new adventure into an ocean of colorful imagination for others.
I’m not sure I soaked up all what “SpongeBob” was about, but the musical was definingly one to take a family to, or pure joy for super fans.
I still am pondering what I saw, but I was entertained. And isn’t that what a show is all about?
My friend was getting on a plane Wednesday and no doubt will be asked, where are you coming from?
To which his only reply should be – Bikini Bottom.
Just to see their confused reaction.